Beginners guide to buying a BJJ gi
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced competitor buying a BJJ gi can be a bit of a minefield. There are just so many options available nowadays and making the right choices can be difficult and stressful. Especially with the costs involved and the current uncertain economic climate. This beginners guide to buying a BJJ gi will help you with your choice of a new gi.
Regardless of your belt level and where you are in your BJJ journey, it is good to know exactly what your options are. Hopefully this guide will help both beginners and experienced practitioners by equipping you with the knowledge to make a more informed purchasing decision when buying a BJJ gi.
What is a BJJ gi?
The gi usually consists of a heavy cotton jacket and pants. The pants include a drawstring to hold them up. The jacket folds closed and is supported with a belt, the colour of the belt aligned with the practitioner’s ranking.
The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi – often referred to as a kimono by non-Japanese speakers – is a uniform for training in BJJ adapted from the keikogi in modern martial arts of Japan. Keiko means practice, gi means clothes or dress.
Why do I need to wear a gi for BJJ?
Other than the obvious respect for the traditions of Jiu Jitsu, a BJJ gi needs to be hard wearing and durable. This is because of the large elements of grabbing and pulling associated with the art. The materials found in gis for other martial arts such as Judo and Karate would most likely tear or fall apart at the seams within the first few training sessions on the mats.
In addition to this the Judo gis are slightly longer and have wider sleeves. Therefore it is easier to grab and grip than a BJJ gi. The BJJ gi tends to be more fitted when the correct size is worn.
What are the best materials for my BJJ gi?
When on the lookout for a new gi you will come across a wide variety of designs, colours and stitching. If you look a bit closer into the specifications you will notice such statements like “Single weave” or “350 GSM pearl weave”. This section of the guide will provide beginners with a bit more information in this area to help you when buying a suitable BJJ gi for your needs.
One of the terms used in the specification of the BJJ gi jacket is GSM. GSM stands for Grams per Square Meter. The GSM metrics are used to determine the weight of the fabric in the gi. Generally the lower the GSM value the lighter the gi should be.
The other main term used in the spec is the type of fabric or “weave” used for the BJJ gi. Below is a description of each of the typical weaves.
The double weave is similar to the single weave but has two times the amount of thread used. This means that the fabric is stronger and can take more of a beating than a single weave. However it also means that the fabric is more expensive and weighs more.
Double weave jackets are less common in BJJ due to the extra weight restricting movement and the fit being less comfortable than the other options on the market. In addition to this, competitors need their BJJ gi to be as light as possible which makes a double weave an inferior choice for competing.
Single weave jackets are cheap and lightweight but less strong than most of the other variations on the market. The jackets typically have a soft feel and the thinner fabric makes them a good choice for every day training. Bear in mind that single weaves will not last as long as the more robust weaves but you’ll still get good value for money and a lot of wear out of them. For this reason single weaves are great for beginners due to the attractive price entry point.
An additional note is that they would make good choices for training in hotter gyms due to the light weight.
This is probably the most popular weave for BJJ gis. Even if the GSM is fairly low you will still find them stronger than single weave equivalents. Most BJJ gis advertised as competition gis will consist of a low GSM pearl weave. The weave is breathable due to being light enough to allow air to pass through. Additionally they tend to dry faster than some of the other weaves when washed.
This is more old school and is a hybrid which falls between single and double weaves. The gold weave has the lightness of the single weave with the same resilience and toughness as the double weave. This weave was the only lightweight but durable fabric available for a long time, but it’s biggest disadvantage is that it shrinks a lot when washed. Because of this more modern weaves such as the pearl are phasing out the gold weave.
Ripstop is an easily recognisable fabric due to its square stitch appearance. It is woven with a reinforced technique making it more resistant to ripping and tearing. It is extremely durable but at the same time is very light and thin. This means it is perfect for use as a travel gi. In fact I have two gis of this type and only need to take one of them with me on my travels due to the fact that they wash and dry within a couple of hours.
The downside to ripstop gis is that in some cases the material is not approved by the IBJJF and other competition organisers who follow the same uniform requirements. Always check with the manufacturer specification if you intend to purchase a ripstop gi for competition.
There are some other manufacturer-specific weaves but those described above are the most popular and standardised weaves – i.e. what you see is what you get regardless of manufacturer.
What colour BJJ gi should I choose?
There are some traditional BJJ gyms which only accept white gis, while others will only accept blue or white. The best advice I can give to you on this is to check with your instructor on what is and is not acceptable in his gym. In addition to this, if you are planning to travel make sure you research the uniform rules for each of the gyms you plan to visit.
It may be that the instructor only allows standard team uniform, in which case you will be limited to buying their BJJ gis for the rest of your time there. Or – as is most often the case in non-affiliated gyms – there may be no rules, which means you can choose whatever you want to wear.
What size BJJ gi should I go for?
Jiu Jitsu practitioners come in all shapes and sizes, so it can often be tricky when it comes to choosing a gi size. To ensure that this Beginners guide to Buying a BJJ Gi is as comprehensive as possible lets check out the IBJJF rules and regulations on uniform sizing.
“The GI top should reach the athlete’s thigh and the sleeves should come to no more than 5 cm from the athlete’s wrist when the arm is extended straight parallel to the ground.
GI pants should reach no more than 5 cm above the tibial malleolus (ankle bone).
The inspection will verify whether the following official measurements are met: GI lapel thickness (1.3 cm), width of GI collar (5 cm), opening of sleeve at full extension (7 cm).”
Usually BJJ gis come in sizes starting from A0 (the smallest) to A6 (the largest). The A stands for Adult. Female specific sizes range from F1 to F4 while kids sizes range from M000 to M4. In addition to this there are a further two size types. L is for the taller leaner practitioner which H is for those with a stocky heavier build. For example A1L or A3H.
How should I clean and maintain my gi for BJJ?
Let’s get one thing straight to avoid any doubt – your BJJ gi must go in the wash after every class. No exceptions. Even if you are just taking part in light drilling. Wash the gi after class, along with the belt. There is no excuse not to. Failure to wash your gi after every class increases the risk of disease transmission. As a good training partner you do not want to be the stinky gi guy, or be the one responsible for passing on ringworm or staph.
You will have read plenty of conflicting information when it comes to how you should wash your gi. I am no authority on this by any means, but here are the rules I stick by with my reasoning for each.
Wash at 30-40c.
Any higher than this causes gi shrinkage. You can work this in your favour should you purchase a gi which is slightly too big though. Don’t go too hot or the rubberised collar may lose its shape.
Wash the BJJ gi inside out.
This will preserve the colour and quality of the fabric.
Never tumble dry the BJJ gi.
It will shrink and it will lose its shape (see point above).
Dry the BJJ gi naturally
Dry the gi without placing it on a radiator or any other high temperature object (e.g. towel rails). I hang mine up on a coat-hanger and place it close to a window so that it can air dry naturally. On a heavier gi it may not fully dry overnight so you may need an extra gi if you want to train BJJ on consecutive days.
What about ironing the gi?
Personally I don’t ever iron mine, even though ripstop creases easily. If you must iron yours, make sure to be careful on the patches. Some of them can stick to the iron despite the patches being woven.
All BJJ gis will shrink but the amount of shrinkage differs by manufacturer and type of weave. This is because cotton absorbs a lot of water while in the wash and shrinks back down when drying out to its tightest form. Drying at a high temperature causes the water to evaporate quicker, which in turn causes the cotton to shrink more significantly than when drying at a cooler temperature. Always try to wash and dry on the lowest temperature your laundry facilities allow.
Which BJJ gi should I buy?
To complement this Beginners Guide to Buying a BJJ Gi, here are some of the best gis for BJJ along with my reasons for choosing them.
Tatami Nova Minimo 2.0 BJJ Gi
Best gi for: Beginners to Jiu Jitsu
The Tatami Nova Minimo 2.0 has a minimalist style and no patches on the body, making it ideal for people like myself who like their gis plain and simple.
It is 425gsm single weave with a rubberised collar to prevent bacteria and sweat absorption.
The pants are lightweight with double reinforcement of the knee padding. They are also have triple stitching across all stress points. What this all means is that the knee padding makes the gi pants less likely to disintegrate under mat burn. It also means that the triple stitching should help minimise the risk of tears and splitting under pressure.
The gi is sold at a competitive price, and the Tatami brand is a well known globally. The Nova Minimo 2.0 should be an ideal first gi or one to use as a spare while the others are in the wash.
Hyperfly Starlyte BJJ Gi
Best gi for: Travelling
This is my favourite gi. I have had this Hyperfly gi for 3 years and it is still going strong. I have taken it on countless road and flight trips, and at around 1.2kg it is one of the lightest available.
The gi has a 275gsm star weave and is a one piece construction with no back seam. It is genuinely the most comfortable gi I have worn, and actually feels like I am wearing summer pyjamas. As a bonus for travellers the gi takes less than two hours to dry after a wash.
The only negative to this gi is that the weave is too light for IBJJF approval. Therefore I advise you not to buy the Hyperfly Starlyte gi if you intend to use your new BJJ gi for competition.
Valor Bravura Classic Plain BJJ Gi
Best gi for: Price
This is one of the cheapest gis around which is not in an end of season sale of some sort. Personally I have not tried this gi, so I can’t comment on the quality. However, it has almost 100 ratings on Amazon with an average of 4.5 stars. That is a lot of happy customers for this BJJ gi for the budget conscious.
As an added bonus this BJJ gi ships with a free white belt which can be sold to make the deal even cheaper. Alternatively you could donate it to your gym or a charity for the underprivileged.
When the lockdown restrictions ease and we are all back in training I will buy this gi and give it a thorough review. For £34.99 it definitely looks like a steal even if it is for use as a spare gi while your favourite is still drying.
Scramble Athlete v4 BJJ Gi
Best gi for: Competition
The Scramble Athlete v4 range is designed with competition in mind. This particular model is constructed with 550gsm and 10.5oz heavyweight cotton twill trousers. Yet the gi itself is not particularly heavy at 1.8kg, making it a hard-wearing piece of kit which can be worn in competition as well as on the training mats on a regular basis.
It comes with a mesh washbag to help keep its shape throughout the laundry process, which is a nice touch with the consumer in mind.
Scramble gis go through quite a bit of shrinkage so make sure you don’t heat them up too much during washing or drying.
Tatami Japan Series – Samurai BJJ Gu
Best for: Style
The Tatami Samurai gi looks fantastic with its Japanese inspired characters and embroidered flowers. There is also a full colour samurai design on the inner jacket. This makes it really stand out but at the same time maintain Tatami’s usual understated gi characteristics. It is lightweight and IBJJF approved so you can win the gold in style.
These are some of the best BJJ gis currently available, but I will keep coming back to this page and updating it. So please make sure you subscribe if you would like to be kept informed of the best deals.
I hope you enjoyed my guide to buying a BJJ gi. If you found it useful check out my other article on the best rash guards for BJJ and MMA. Also if you find yourself feeling low or down about being isolated during these uncertain times, please take a look at these tips on managing mental health during lockdown.